For each destination you’ll find a country profile and a selection of responsible operators divided into distinctive categories, as described below; what to do, where to sleep, where to eat, where to shop. Some entries are featured in several categories at the same time, when appropriate.
The country profile was written with the aim to give you a broad summary of information you may not find in other guides. It includes an overview of the history, geography, climate, and economy of the destination, an insightful description of natural and cultural heritages sites, updated information on border crossings and visa requirements, and useful tips to avoid cross cultural clashes and show respect to your hosts.
We did not develop information on airlines, or how to get to the different destinations and sites to visit, as you will be able to find easily this kind of information in other guide books, printed or on line and, in particular on the websites of each organisation featured. In the Contacts section, you’ll find the official website of each tourism administration as well as the main addresses of Visitor Information Centres (tourist offices). Beware of the increasing numbers of websites and tourist offices who unlawfully claim to be the official ones, only trust those mentioned here.
What to do
Community Based Tourism & Homestay
In this section, you’ll find numerous ideas to experience genuine cultural exchange with indigenous communities and to explore in depth some of the most beautiful countryside and protected areas under their enlightened guidance. You’ll have the chance to share your hosts’ lives for a few days, which will allow you to get a discerning glimpse of the cultural diversity and richness of the cultures and traditions of different ethnic groups who represent one of the essential and most fascinating aspects of the Mekong region. Some offer very comfortable accommodation worthy of hotels, others are much more basic, without running water or private toilets. Nevertheless, every where you will be warmly welcomed as a guest of honour, a friend or even, as a member of the family. You can be ensured that your hosts will strive to offer you the most enjoyable stay of your trip. The CBT destinations are partly or entirely managed by the communities themselves, with a share of your tourism expenses accruing to a community’s development fund supporting social (education, health) and /or environmental projects. In this section you’ll also find many ideas for experiential holidays where you’ll be learning with the communities cooking, permaculture, organic farming, pottery, silk weaving, traditional fishing or even how to build a boat! … A travel to the Mekong region would not be complete without at least one stay with a local, ethnic community.
Active holidays displays activities requiring some fitness and a sense of adventure, such as biking, trekking, kayaking, climbing, etc. Some are accessible for all the family, while some are more physically demanding. This type of holidays such as biking, are probably the best way to get closer to the destination and its people in a simple, non intrusive way that opens more doors for an authentic journey.
Nature discovery presents activities for all the family, focusing on the exploration of nature, boat cruises, homestays in hill tribes’ villages, easy trekking or gentle rambles, nature trails and night safaris into protected areas, bird watching, etc. All these are accessible to all young travellers as well as active seniors with a young heart inspired by the beauty of nature, spectacular landscapes and wildlife viewing.
Arts & Culture gives you the best addresses of sites and museums, or even sometimes shops where you will get a genuine cultural experience, or simply learn more about the destination you are travelling in. We did not feature the essential sites that we know you’ll visit anyway such as Angkor Vat or the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi. Instead, we chose to direct you towards those you may otherwise miss and which will greatly contribute to your understanding and enjoyment of the destination.
Body & Mind Healing indicates you where to unwind, relax, meditate, and pamper yourself from head to toe, so that you come back from your holiday with a rejuvenated body, a younger heart and a clear appeased mind. We warn you, some of these experiences may change your life perspectives forever.
Where to stay
We have selected a range of accommodation that goes from comfortable homestays to simple huts, from boutique hotels to farms, from rural accommodations to urban chic or seaside resorts. We deliberately focused on promoting micro, small & medium enterprises considering the big hotel chains or the 5 star properties, although some do actively engage on an environmentally friendly path, do not need our E-guide to get exposure and publicity. Our objective is to promote first hand those small operators who are isolated in the wide world marketing competition, who have little promotional budget and, cannot advertise themselves on the world stage, and of course, those who are truly committed not only environmentally but also socially and economically towards the local populations.
Where to shop
This section was designed to provide you with the best and sometimes unknown addresses to purchase genuine, locally handmade handicrafts, and other local products which at the same time contribute towards the revival and value of a diverse cultural heritage, the perpetuation of ancestral skills and technical knowhow, while encouraging new designs and contemporary interpretation of traditional crafts. In some of these shops the items displayed are so exquisite you’ll think you are in an art gallery. Moreover, most organisations featured here comply with international Fair Trade principles, and many sell organic products for body care or organic food or, have converted recycled materials into fine jewellery, clothes or home decoration items.
Where to eat
This selection takes you to the best bars, restaurants and food outlets. Many of them are NGOs working to support the education of street kids or disadvantaged youth and help them and their families to gain sufficient income allowing them to keep learning. They act as application schools often palliating the limited opportunity for vocational training in these destinations, they are offering a future to a class of population who would otherwise have little chance to learn and study, hence to escape poverty. After working and learning with these NGO or social enterprises, most of these trainees are afterwards happily employed by the private sector who finds in these students a qualified and service-oriented human power that would be difficult to find otherwise. We trust the success of any operation firstly depends on the quality of its services and products.
As in every endeavour, there will be businesses and organisations doing great work which slipped through the net. If you have any suggestions for great responsible operators, then please let us know, so that a future edition of this guide can be even better and take you even further.
The other sections include:
The Discovery Map where you’ll find an interactive Google map of the Greater Mekong Subregion where all operators and suppliers listed are located for an easy search and to help you design your itinerary. Each category is represented by a specific, easily understood icon.
In each entry, at the bottom of the page you’ll also find the zoomed map locating the supplier or operator featured.
The Responsible tourism section is designed for those who wish to learn more about responsible tourism. This section gives you basic definitions of what is responsible tourism and links you to our parent website www.mekongtourism.org where we have developed a resource knowledge centre on sustainable tourism For your information, we have also listed here the main existing awards and websites which are dedicated to responsible tourism and /or sustainable tourism.
- The slider displays our Mekong Heroes, those who demonstrated the most comprehensive and significant commitment.
- Popular Links list the most visited pages.
- Latest updates allows the frequent visitor to know what are the most recent entries.
- An internal search engine at the top left enables easy finding by thematic words
- Relevant tags allow you to find all the entries which have been classified under similar characteristics: family, environmentally friendly accommodations, ecotourism, biking, etc.
- Relevant Posts lead you to entries in similar categories where to stay, where to shop, etc.
- Sharing the links through email and social networks is most welcome